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In part one of this series, I wrote about the changing landscape for how vendors and enterprise buyers (IT folks, in our case) connect – through the consumer-learned behaviors of search and research. This means that vendors must endorse “needs-based” marketing, not “transformational” marketing. Showing up where someone is searching for a solution is an entirely different skill set than advertising a solution to a problem people aren’t entirely aware they have. I like to compare it to selling aspirin versus vitamins. Or SolarWinds versus HP. Big difference.

But the impact of the Consumerization of IT goes much further than just defining how IT users find a vendor or solution. It has fundamentally changed what those users expect from their vendor – including changing the products themselves. We are used to thinking that anything worth paying for in IT must be complex stuff, so complex implementations & complex products are tolerated and expected. Not anymore.  Shelf-ware is totally taboo, ease of use is a critical feature, and immediately demonstrable value are the expectations. The trade-off might be fewer features, or starting smaller, but the productivity gains of a rapidly deployed solution have been proven. The try-before-you-buy approach was novel to IT solutions a few years ago, but is now the expectation. The immediate-gratification of our consumer lives is fairly fully integrated in the workplace.

Beyond the product itself, other impacts of the Consumerization shift are just as palpable. Potential buyers want to know what users think, users want to talk with other users, everyone wants to hear from the company. Communities, ratings & reviews, user-generated content. These are all examples of the higher level of user engagement and interaction that characterize the “consumerized” enterprise solutions today.

How a company thinks about their products, and how it communicates with its users – essentially the entire customer relationship – has changed dramatically through this evolution. In the last part of this series, I’ll talk about how to tell the companies that “get it” from those who don’t.

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